Each week, we take a current data point, share insights, and help make it actionable for your church. It's a series we call Data Made Practical.
Here are the top five search topics on YouVersion for the week ending August 26, 2021.
What's noteworthy is that a couple “negative” search terms dropped or fell in the search rankings, while other “positive” terms took their place. With so much confusion in the world, it’s likely people are not just searching for their problems but searching for an antidote.
Tips to Make it Practical
In your sermons and email communication, make sure you’re embracing the positive not just avoiding the negative. A sermon series about overcoming fear or dealing with baggage highlights problems, while a message focused on love or trust accentuates the positive.
Share this data with your leadership team. Ask them to reflect on ways they can authentically lead others to embrace the positive.
In Philippians 4:8, Paul writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
Intentionally helping your church embrace the positive aspects of our faith and actively pursuing the traits described as the fruit of the spirit is a helpful addition to teaching on dealing with the complexities and hardships of life today.
You announced it to your leaders, staff, volunteers, and church body. Everyone agrees that it represents what the church stands for and where the church is going.
After hours (or even days) of work, where is your purpose statement supposed to go other than in the back of your mind to inspire you?
There are practical ways you can use your purpose statement that will remind your congregation, community, and internal team why you exist.
#1 – Display it in the lobby.
When people come through the doors of your church, make your vision statement the first thing they see. Decals, signs, and banners are a great way to communicate your church’s vision for all to see.
#2 – Put it on your website.
Many people will visit your church website long before they step foot in the church building. Let them know what your church is all about by displaying your vision statement prominently on your website. You can even use a separate page on your website to further explain what it means for your church’s purpose and role in the community.
#3 – Print it on church merchandise.
A creative way to give your congregation a regular reminder of the church’s vision is to print it on t-shirts, tote bags, buttons, pens, and more. They’ll also be able to use it as a tool to invite people to church when they wear the merchandise out in the community.
#4 – Add it to your staff email signatures.
Besides communicating who you are and what you do, your email signature can also give people a glimpse into the heart of your church.
#5 – Add it to your social media profiles.
It can be tough to know what to include in your bio on social media outside of service times and a link to your website. But the bio section on social media profiles is the perfect place to add your church’s vision statement.
#6 – Print it on your print materials.
Do you ever hand out bulletins on Sundays or post flyers throughout your community during the week? Add your vision statement to programs, business cards, invitation cards, and more.
Every leader has faced that sense of aimlessness as if they’re working toward an ambiguous purpose. When the purpose of your ministry seems unclear, you may find yourself asking, “Why are we even here?”
And that’s why your church needs a purpose statement.
Many use the term purpose, mission, and vision interchangably, but at Church Fuel, we teach them uniquely.
Purpose is your never-changing, deep sense of why. Think “explore space.” Mission is your next current, church-wide objective. Think “go to Mars.” Vision is a preferred picture of the future. Think “everyone has a spirit of exploration.”
A purpose statement that grounds your sense of why can have a big effect, including…
Getting your leadership team and staff on the same page
Helping you mobilize your congregation toward a common goal
Promote unity and understanding between individual ministries
When you’re working with your team to create or update your purpose statement, it helps to have examples on hand to inspire you. Here are twenty-two great purpose statements from churches around the world.
Pastors aren’t always great with the business side of church.
Preaching, casting vision, helping people…those are usually right in their wheelhouse.
But strategy, operations, planning, technology, and finances often feel like they get in the way of real ministry.
“If I didn’t have to do this business stuff, I could do more real people ministry,” pastors think.
Such is the case with systems.
The word “system” itself can create division, with one camp thinking systems and processes are nowhere in the Bible and have little place in the church.
But set up correctly, systems truly enable ministry.
Digging trenches and installing pipes might feel like construction, but if you’re trying to get clean water to people who need it, it’s ministry. Ultimately, good systems in your church could mean that you’re more effective in your mission to make disciples.
Here are seven systems every church needs, along with a few ideas and next steps for each one.
Follow-up is one of the most important parts of ministry, and these follow-up steps happen throughout every ministry and program. As we seek to move people from Point A to Point B, programs and ministries can certainly be involved, but the process itself matters a great deal.
What happens when someone signs up to volunteer? You shouldn’t wonder what to do at that moment; you should have a system.
What happens when a guest visits for the first time? Don’t hope they meet the right person and end up connecting; put your documented follow-up system into place.
Whether you’re following up with first-time guests, new givers, volunteer sign-ups, or event registrations, here are five questions you should ask before designing the actual system. We call this The Follow-Up Framework.
What does success look like?
What do you want people to know?
What do you want people to do?
What do you want people to feel?
What do you want people to believe?
Answer these five questions before you write your emails or set up your automated texting campaign.
We dive deeper into this framework and give recommended campaigns for all sorts of actions in The Follow-Up Course. Learn more here.
#2 – Every church needs a volunteer system.
Churches of all shapes and sizes consistently need volunteers to help do the work of the ministry. The more your church is growing, the more pronounced the need.
I’ve never worked with a church that had too many volunteers.
You can’t rely on great sermons every now and then to fill the volunteer pipeline. And throwing more vision at a group of semi-engaged people isn’t going to be enough.
Since you always need volunteers, you need a great volunteer system.
This volunteer system should have three parts.
What’s your plan to recruit volunteers, either a lot at a time or all throughout the year? In The Volunteer Course, we’ll show you the two main approaches and tell you why you shouldn’t try to mix them.
You MUST have a system to train new and existing volunteers so they can actually be effective. The typical meetings may not work…we’ll show you some better ways.
This is the missing element in most churches. Your volunteers should be the happiest people in your church, not teetering on the verge of burnout. Your system should help you actually pastor and shepherd the people doing the work in the church.
For those who preach every week, you likely have a rhythm to your preparation. Honestly, creating a sermon is a deeply personal experience.
But the more you can streamline your process, the more you can improve as a preacher. And the more you can involve (and even develop) others.
I think about building a sermon in much the same way I think about building a house. Except you don’t have months and months—you have to build a new house every week.
First, there’s the foundation. Just like a foundation is the most important part of a home, the spiritual health of a pastor is the most important part of a sermon. Without this, things eventually fall apart.
Next, you frame the house. Asking key questions about the text, topic, and audience will give you a good structure on which to build.
After framing comes finishing. This is where you write the actual message.
Finally, you furnish and move in. Finally, you practice and evaluate in advance, making sure everything is personalized to you and your congregation.
The Preaching Course, created in conjunction with Ministry Pass, is included in your Church Fuel membership. If you preach on a regular basis or want to develop other speakers in your church, get the course and go through it.
#4 – Every church needs a giving system.
How do you raise money?
How do you manage money?
How do you talk about money the right way?
All important questions for church leaders.
This is not a topic to avoid, because money usually means ministry.
Your giving system is so much more than creating a budget and managing expenses. Your giving system should actually result in an increase in regular giving.
Once a year, finance teams and ministry leaders embark on a process of updating the budget for the new year.
Every church is different, but it’s not unusual for two or three months of reports, requisitions, comparisons, and planning to be debated, crunched, and ultimately presented to the congregation.
A lot of work goes into making a budget, the document that shows how all this money is planned to be spent.
Then throughout the year, there are checks and balances to ensure accountability and wise financial decisions.
But do you know what’s an afterthought in many churches?
Where the money is going to come from.
That’s why we include practical training on the funding plan side in addition to lots of help creating the spending plan part of your budget.
You’ll find this training in The Giving Course, which you can get here. It’s also included for all Church Fuel members.
#5 – Every church needs a connection system.
How do you move people from the community to the congregation to the core? How do you keep people from leaving out the back door? How do you help people engage?
These are all important questions and answering them is crucial to your connection system.
It starts by defining what connected means in your context. Every church is different, but I can tell you how we defined it at the church I helped lead.
We started by answering the question: What do we really want people to do? Then we whittled the answers down to three key actions that went beyond attendance.
We wanted people to give.
We wanted people to join a group.
We wanted people to serve.
Those are all measurable, which means we could quickly identify who was NOT doing them. But if people were doing 2 out of 3, we considered them connected.
Today, we call these the “three key actions” and we have lots of resources to help you lead your church to engage in this way.
How do you define connected or engaged in your church? And do you have a system to lead attenders there? Are you measuring this?
#6 – Every church needs a leadership system.
They asked Ed Catmull, president of Pixar, whether ideas or people were more important.
Here’s his answer.
“Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right. Ideas come before people. Therefore people are more important than ideas. Find, develop, and support good people, and they, in turn, will find, develop, and own good ideas.”
He went on to say that if you give a great idea to a team of mediocre people, they will screw it up. But if you give a mediocre idea to a team of great people, you’ll have a hit.
In churches today, leadership is the biggest barrier to growth.
Not denomination, facility, or service times.
This means that developing leaders is one of your best opportunities for growth.
It’s not going to take a lot of money, but it is going to require a lot of focus. To do this effectively, you need two things.
Your leadership development cadence answers the question: “When do we do what?” Most development conversations, team building retreats, and training sessions don’t happen because this stuff never makes it to the calendar. It’s something you want to do but not something that actually makes it to your actual calendar. By defining a cadence, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Even if the meetings and conversations are scheduled, you need the content to make it happen. You need the skill-based lesson to teach in the meeting. You need to evaluation form and the growth plan template to have that one-on-one. You need the agenda and toolkit to run the annual strategic meeting.
You’ll find both the cadence and content waiting for you in LeaderPulse. This premium product is a complete leadership development system, easy to customize for your church. It’s not just the recipe, it’s the Hello Fresh style meal prep kit, so you can get going right out of the box.
#7 – Every Church Needs a Communications System
So much of church ministry is communication and messaging. You have to get the right message to the right people.
This means identifying your audiences, creating content, choosing channels and tools, and building a team.
All Systems Fit Together
As you read through this, you probably know a couple of these systems in your church need work. Maybe they don’t exist. Maybe they need a refresh.
You also know they all work together and can help enable ministry.
With the right people, the right programs, and the right processes, you can have a healthy and growing church.
Take the Next Step
Churches tend to focus on people problems, but behind the scenes, broken systems are what’s holding you back.
The Systems Course gives you the training and resources you need to create healthy systems in key areas of your church. This course focuses on key systems like follow-up, assimilation, and stewardship and includes insanely practical video training and actionable resources to help you implement effective systems and processes that help people follow Jesus.
Barna recently hosted another “State of the Church” monthly forum aimed at helping church leaders in Dallas, Kansas City, Columbus, and South Florida. In addition to sharing fresh data for these areas, there are national insights that are worth noting.
A previous forum shed light on how unchurched people perceived the church. You can read a summary of those findings and action steps here.
This forum, and the survey data released at the event, focused on the impact of Covid on church engagement across generations. The report looked to shed light on how the Pandemic has changed churchgoer perception and behaviors.
I want to share a few of the stats, but also attach some recommended action steps to them. My hope is that by shining a light on the data and highlighting one potential action step, you can move from information to application to transformation.
Whenever we talk about stats and trends, our goal is to help you take a step from “that’s interesting” to “that’s actionable.”
Here are three actionable insights I want to share from the June 2021 forum.
#1 – Unchurched people pray.
One might assume that church attenders or practicing Christians pray more than others. But you might be surprised to learn that 43% of unchurched people say they pray weekly.
Prayer is one of the spiritual activities that seem to cross-denominational and theological lines. It’s a common religious practice and a relatable activity. From pre-game huddles at sporting events and concerts to the portrayal in the movies to dinner tables across the country, prayer is a fairly normal activity.
This presents church leaders with an opportunity.
The unchurched people in your community might be open to prayer prompt resources, prayer-focused groups, prayer apps, and more. Rather than bake these elements into existing ministries and programs, as many churches do, it might be worth calling this out as a stand-alone ministry or offering.
Could you offer prayer guides on your website or social channels? Could you publish prayers for moms, busy professionals, teachers, or other segments of your community? Could you ask people in your community how you can pray for them?
Chris Abbott is helping churches use Facebook Messenger ads to simply offer prayer to people who live in their community. Rather than boosting a post or running a traditional event ad, these messenger bot ads use a homemade video from a pastor and invites people to reply via messenger if they have a prayer need.
There might be an incredible ministry opportunity waiting for you in one of the most familiar religious traditions in history.
#2 – Churchgoers say it’s important to attend church services but many don’t actually follow through.
While 78% of churchgoers say “experiencing God in a church service is important to me,” 40% of them didn’t engage with the church at all during the pandemic.
That is quite a gap between what people say is important and the actions they take.
This data may simply underline what we already know to be true about people, namely they don’t necessarily do what they say. Every day, people willfully avoid activities they know to be good for them but participate in detrimental behaviors against their better judgment instead.
We say our health is important, but we still eat foods we know are not good for us. We say financial stability is a priority, but we tend to buy things with money we don’t have. We often live apart from our stated values.
Many Christians say church attendance is personally important, but they don’t follow through with action.
Perhaps it’s time for churchgoers to be lovingly called out on this discrepancy.
With a pastoral heart, you could take the direct approach, challenging people to put feet to their faith and reminding them “faith without works is dead.” You might also take an indirect approach, reminding people of the benefits of the community, both for their own lives and the lives of their children.
For many, simply acknowledging the gap would be a good place to start. As pastors, we should shepherd our people toward this outcome.
Here's a word of caution from Matt Anderson, one of the Church Fuel coaches: “People will spell a rat if we act like mere church attendance is the antidote because no service can truly meet people’s needs in full.” In our quest to re-engage people (whether that’s in-person or online), let’s be sure not to make it all about attendance. Don’t limit God’s activity in people’s lives to church programs and worship services.
#3 – It’s hard for people to focus while watching church online.
About half of the people surveyed said that they struggle to maintain focus during online church.
Of course, people may struggle to focus during in-person church, but it’s a bigger challenge when watching or participating from home. In a service, you likely won’t get up and walk around, but while participating from home, it’s easy to hit the pause button, make breakfast, have a quick conversation, or do other activities.
When I asked church leaders if they factored this into their programming decisions, responses ranged from “there’s nothing you can do about it” to “create completely unique experiences for an online audience.”
“Honestly, online is going to be distracted no matter what you do. It’s the nature of the beast. Kids, dogs, microwave, putting clothes in the dryer, stopping to go pee, the list goes on. There isn’t anything you can do to prevent that.”
“We craft separate experiences because the contexts are so drastically different. In an in-person service, we work hard to make things seamlessly flow from one part to another. In our online services, we intentionally separate each part with transitions to address the shortened attention spans. For example, instead of doing 3 or 4 worship songs together at the top of service like we do in our physical locations, we do a single song at the top and a single song at the end and invite our online community to continue in worship through song on our YouTube worship playlist.”
Richard says it’s all about the content.
“I freely admit that at most in-person services I attended I found it hard to focus. Boring is boring. Interesting is interesting. If the same people don't say that it's “hard to focus” while watching Netflix, then the problem is the content, not the medium.”
Even though distraction is a problem in-person or online, wise leaders do understand that online audiences are different and participate through unique circumstances. It’s why a serious digital strategy has to be more than “let’s stick a camera in the back of the room and let people watch what we’re doing.”
Engaging your members (and non-members) with online services and content is a significant opportunity for your church.
Church Fuel contains on-demand courses, hundreds of actionable resources, live classes, and labs.
Even though everything is helpful, it’s understandable how you might feel overwhelmed and wonder where to start.
Here are some best practices on how you can actually use Church Fuel.
#1 – Use Church Fuel for Personal Growth
As a senior pastor, you led a lot of meetings, ministries, and programs. People look to you for guidance. People turn to you for help.
But the hardest person you lead is yourself.
John Maxwell says leaders are the lid in their organizations.
That’s why some of the best pastors turn to Church Fuel to help them grow. Think of it like professional development, a resource to help YOU get better. As you’re out there investing in so many others, Church Fuel gives you a way to invest in yourself.
Sign up for a live class, put it on your calendar, then show up and learn.
Download a resource like the Personal Growth Plan and use it go guide your growth.
Go through one of our on-demand courses on your own schedule.
Church Fuel is a great tool for your own personal and professional development.
#2 – Use Church Fuel for Leadership Development
Over and over again, we hear from pastors who know they need to find and train leaders, releasing more and more ministry to others.
Leadership development is one of the biggest barriers most churches are facing.
That makes it one of your biggest opportunities.
To move leadership development from something you desire to something you do, you need two things.
First, it has to get on your calendar. You’re the only one that can do this. There’s no tool or hack.
Second, you need content. We’ve got you covered here.
Resources like the Staff Evaluation and the Task Matrix will help you have important conversations with your team, giving them the tools they need to get better.
Because you can add other leaders to your Church Fuel account at no extra cost, it’s easy to assign courses and resources to them. Have them go through a course or sign up for a live class.
Church Fuel is a way that you can give your team access to world-class training and resources and help them get better.
#3 – Use Church Fuel in Team Meetings and Retreats
Several pastors find that taking time during existing meetings is a great way to use Church Fuel content.
You’ve already got the meeting on your schedule…just repurpose part of it to watch a video or talk through a resource. A lot of things inside the program work well in this kind of setting.
You could use the Staff Devotionals to kick off Elder’s Meetings or Staff Meetings. You could ask your team to use the Service Evaluation form one weekend then gather to talk through the results.
You could also work through one of our courses at a leadership retreat. For example, you could go through Building Your Ministry Plan over a couple of days and take a huge step forward. This particular course makes for a great schedule.
Or maybe you want to take your team through Rebound or focus on follow-up. Those courses work well as retreats, too.
As you can see, there are a lot of practical ways you can actually USE Church Fuel throughout your church.
Like most things in life, the power doesn’t come from signing up. The power comes when you sign up, show up, and actually use the tool.